World Peace Update
Oh hai, Israel! Nice of you to join us. Ever since one of your drones took out Hamas' military leader, Ahmed Jabari, in a missile strike last Wednesday, you've been bombing the crap out of the Gaza Strip. So far you've killed over 100 people and injured close to a thousand, the overwhelming majority of whom are civilians. Bravo on your maiden appearance in World Peace Update.
The Israelis claim they've been using precision strikes to take out Hamas leaders. If there are civilian deaths (and inevitably there are) they'll blame Hamas themselves for retaliating with rockets of their own. The difference between anywhere in Israel and Gaza is that the latter is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth and the people there have nowhere to go, so what Israel has done, essentially, is create an open-air prison that they're now relentlessly bombarding with deadly rockets and drones.
I would be ecstatic to dedicate the whole column to the Gaza conflict this week, but seeing as we're doing a pretty good job of covering events as they develop, I thought I'd contain myself. Plus I wouldn't want to deny a bunch of French homophobes, Somali militants, and the murderous Assad regime their time in the sun. That would just be unfair.
You know how the French always take pride in their open-mindedness and won't shut up about all the sexy sex they're having with each other? Turns out they've been kind of falling short on the latter. They may have nailed down art, science, and food over the years, but it seems they've yet to come to grips with gay rights. On Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris to voice their disagreement with same-sex marriage and gay abortion (!) in a march organized by the Catholic group, Civitas. All was going to plan until the Ukrainian topless feminist group FEMEN turned up, dressed as nuns and carrying bottles of "sperm" that they sprayed the Civitas protesters with while chanting, "In gay we trust!"
The light-hearted, peaceful fun was broken up when some French anti-gay protesters in masks turned on FEMEN, attacking them with pepper spray. As they were being chased away from the march by the masked "hardmen," FEMEN suffered a few losses, in the form of teeth and broken noses. But it's all good, 'cause they promised they'll be taking their revenge soon.
Ethnic violence threatened to envelop Kenya once again when riots broke out between Kenyans and ethnic Somalis in the capital Nairobi over the weekend. The whole fuss started after a grenade was thrown into a bus in the predominantly ethnic Somali neighborhood of Eastleigh, killing nine. The attack was blamed on Somali militants Al Shabab, who have been fighting Kenyan troops as part of the African Union force in Somalia. This is not the first time something like this has happened, as the conflict in Somalia has slowly trickled into Kenya.
In response to the blast, hundreds of Kenyan youths gathered in Eastleigh to loot Somali-owned shops and fight the Somali kids trying to protect their neighborhood. Eventually the police stepped in to halt the violence, firing tear gas into the crowds. Already this year we've seen rioting in Mombassa between Christians and Muslims and clashes between nomadic farmers' groups in the Kenyan bush, which is slightly worrying since it means the country could very easily slip back to the bloody sectarian clashes of 2007.
Last Wednesday saw the first ever pan-European strike. It was coordinated by major European trade unions with hundreds of thousands attending simultaneous demonstrations across the continent to protest the austerity crisis that's crippling the south of Europe. Unsurprisingly there was fighting in Portugal, Spain, and Italy, but in most areas things had calmed down by the next day. Except in Italy.
For the last few years the Greeks have been the kings of civil disobedience in Europe. Now, slowly but surely, the Italians seem to be wresting the crown from their grasp, their demos growing in frequency and militancy. During the strike on the 14th, Italy saw some of its fiercest clashes yet, with the cities of Rome, Milan, Turin, and Bologna suffering the most. In the following days, further violence took place in Milan, when Italian PM Mario Monti showed up in town.
Unless he is already bunkered down in a dank hole somewhere, cry-wanking over what might have been, I'm pretty sure Bashar Al-Assad spent Thursday night watching TV and laughing gleefully at Israel's bombing campaign against Gaza. For now, the world's media has switched their focus from the brutal and chaotic civil war that has engulfed Syria to the Gazan conflict, giving the Assad regime some space to keep attacking its civilians.
And yet, it seems that Assad hasn't been managing his time that wisely, as he hasn't been making any significant gains in contrast to the anti-regime Free Syrian Army. On Saturday, the FSA announced they'd taken the Hamdan air base on the border with Iraq, which prompted the Syrian air force to immediately bomb it in an effort to destroy as much of the valuable material as possible before it fell into rebel hands.
On top of the Hamdan air base, after a month of fighting, the rebels were able to take Base 46—a key Syrian army base in Aleppo province that has been the HQ for artillery attacks on the surrounding countryside and Aleppo City for months. With the loss of Base 46, regime forces in Aleppo have become increasingly isolated and there's a real chance their supply lines might get cut off.
In other news that piles the pressure on Assad, the UK joined France and a coalition of Gulf states in recognizing the new Syrian opposition as the sole representatives of the Syrian people and promising them a further $3 million in aid.
Check in next week to see if Israel has managed to wipe Gaza off the map.
Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston